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What Ontario’s Latest Public Health Measures Mean for Condos

On April 16, 2021, Ontario issued its most stringent set of public health measures in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.  The new restrictions will have relatively little impact on condos as most Shutdown restrictions ordered on April 3 continue to apply with (some but) little condo-relevant changes.

Stay at home order continues

The Shutdown order (of April 3) and the Stay-at-home order (of April 8) continue to apply and have, in fact, been extended for an additional 2 weeks.  You can read more about these here but the condo-relevant measures include:

  • Masks on interior common elements (with usual exceptions);
  • COVID screening required for those working at the corporation and notices by entrances inviting everyone else to self-screen;
  • Gyms, pools, recreational amenities to remain closed;
  • Organized public events and social gathering (indoor (and now outdoor)) are not permitted; etc.

New measures

Ontario has announced the following condo-relevant additional measures:

  • All outdoor social and public gathering are prohibited.  Only members of the same household are permitted to gather outdoors (with the exception or one person living alone or someone providing care who can another household);
  • All exterior recreational facilities must close. This includes any sport fields/courts (such as tennis, baseball, basketball, soccer, golf course etc.), but also other outdoor amenities such as outdoor common element terraces and BBQ facilities. Parks, park benches, outdoor playgrounds, outdoor play structures were initially closed but they are now permitted to open, subject to the gathering restrictions discussed above. Do keep in mind that outdoor recreational fitness equipment must be closed;
  • All non-essential construction is being suspended.  This appears to mainly apply to commercial projects (construction of shopping centres, office towers, etc.). Residential construction activities or projects and related services are allowed to continue [more on this further below];
  • Increased police powers to enforce gathering restrictions , specifically granting them the authority to ask questions if they have reasons to suspect that an individual is breaching gathering restrictions and if the police believes it to be in the public interest to determine whether there is compliance.

Many more measures were announced but we are only listing here those we view as most relevant to condos.

The above will come into effect on April 17, 2021.

List of essential services

The list of essential services continues to include the following condo-relevant activities:

  • Laundromats;
  • Snow clearing, lawncare and landscaping;
  • Security services; and,
  • Maintenance, repair and property management services required for the safety, security, sanitation and operations of the corporation.

Construction allowed to continue

While the province announced that all non-essential construction activities would be suspended, the amended Stage 1 regulation (applicable to Lockdown and Shutdown areas) continue to permit the following construction activities:

  • Maintenance, repair and property management services required for the safety, security, sanitation and operation of properties and buildings;
  • Residential construction activities or projects.

All other construction work, activities, and services were ordered to cease at 12:01am on April 17, 2021.

This is not to say that all residential construction activities must continue. In our view, corporations should consider postponing non-essential work in both common elements and in units.

Indeed, corporations continue to have the authority to regulate, manage and control common elements and they have the duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the reasonable safety of those on their premises.  Corporations should also consider the disruption that non-essential construction work will impose on the rest of the residents who must stay at home (and in many cases who must work from home). Unnecessary construction work (whether it’d be in units or on common elements) attracts additional traffic and, with it, risk and disruption.

Still, deciding what work should proceed is a difficult balancing act for condo corporations who must consider the interests of all and any existing contractual obligations stemming from ongoing or scheduled work. Best to consult with your favourite condo lawyer before you continue or suspend common work and before you regulate in-unit work.

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We realize that many of these measures are not popular but it is difficult to imagine how we will ever be able to get out of this public health crisis if we don’t scale back our daily activities to the truly essential ones. Short term pain for long term gain.

You can read the press release here.

Updated April 18, 3021 at 15:20 pm.